Everyone knows that a smoking habit can cause a range of serious physical problems, from heart disease to diabetes and various types of cancer. However, what few people realize is the profound relationship between smoking and various mental illnesses.
Recent studies have indicated a strong relationship between smoking and the presence of mental illness. However, there is still an unresolved mystery: Is smoking the cause of these diseases, or is it a way to deal with the symptoms of these pre-existing conditions?
The relationship between smoking and mental illness
Finally, a new study, led by researchers at Aarhus UniversityIt seems that Denmark has solved this puzzle.
The results, which reaffirm the negative impact of tobacco consumption on mental health, show that smoking can actually be a cause of mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“Although smoking is not the only cause, it increases the risk of hospitalization for mental illness by 250%,” said Dr. Doug Speed, one of the study’s authors and a statistical geneticist at the Center for Genetics and Quantitative Genomics at Aarhus University.
To conduct this study, researchers had access to the UK Biobank, a database containing health information on more than half a million people.
The genetic information was combined with other health and lifestyle factors, and the researchers paid special attention to the age at which people start smoking.
It turns out that people start smoking on average at the age of 17 years, but the emergence of psychological disorders usually occurs after the age of 30 years.
The role of the genetic factor
The team’s work also suggested a genetic link between smoking and mental illness. So-called “smoking-linked genes” can increase a person’s tendency to become a smoker.
People participating in the study who carried these genes but did not smoke were less likely to develop mental disorders than those who carried the genes and smoked.
The study, published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, leaves open the question of how smoking causes these mental illnesses.
“We still need to find the biological mechanism by which smoking causes mental disorders. One theory is that nicotine blocks the uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. We know that people with depression do not produce enough serotonin,” Speed explained.
Another hypothesis suggests that smoking can cause inflammation in the brain, which may lead to long-term damage and, consequently, mental disorders.
However, what is clear is that the relationship between mental health and tobacco use is by no means positive. This is another reason to double our interest in smoking and continue to fight this addiction.
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